Love The Way You Kiss Me - Willow Winters Page 0,3

of an electric shock. That phone call shook me up more than I thought it did. It’s not the client. Not Eleanor. My reaction has nothing to do with her.

The judge finishes reading Cade’s plan, detailing what’s already been done to accommodate the guidelines, and the mood in the room shifts. “Mr. Thompson, do you have adequate personnel to ensure two individuals are on hand around the clock?”

“We do, Your Honor.”

“And you’re equipped to provide appropriate security?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“The Rockford Center has signed off on the proposed plan of care?” The judge’s eyes flick to Aiden. The man’s navy blue suit hangs well on him. With his slicked back hair, it’s hard not to notice he took great effort in his appearance for today.

“We’ve met extensively on the proposal. The Rockford Center has full faith in The Firm to provide care.”

The judge taps the papers with his knuckle. “I’d say we’ve moved beyond providing care and into full guardianship. I’ve never signed off on a transfer of custody this extensive. Your company will not only be responsible for providing personal care. The level of mental health services needs to be comparable to, or exceed that of the Rockford Center.”

“Your Honor, we are equipped to provide those services.” Anyone else would think Cade was sticking to the rules of engagement—calm focus. But I’m his brother. I see the tension in the side of his jaw. He wants this to go well. We all do. And not just for the company.

I’ve made it a point not to know all the details of Eleanor’s past. She deserves a clean slate with me, just like any other client. But the situation itself is different. The judge isn’t exaggerating when he says he’s never done this before. There’s never been a custody transfer from the Rockford Center, or anywhere like it in the state, to a private company. Eleanor’s case will be the first.

“If it’s a matter of documentation, Your Honor—”

The judge waves Cade off. “This is a matter of character.” He looks Cade in the eye. “You assume all of the responsibility for this patient’s care. You also assume all of the risk. The state will intervene if there’s cause to believe you’re not meeting your obligations.”

“Understood, Your Honor.”

The judge shuffles his papers again; for once, the gentleman is showing his nerves. “Does the Rockford Center have any additional input?”

“Only that we’ve vetted the plans by The Firm and have full confidence in Ms. Bordeu’s care. The staff at the Rockford Center all agree that the institutional setting has served her to its natural endpoint. It’s time for Ms. Bordeu to return to her home. Under appropriate supervision, of course, and getting all the care she needs.”

With a simmering strain, the courtroom awaits the judge’s verdict with bated breath. I hold mine, keeping with it the pent-up tension from the call this morning, the guilt I feel over being late, and my burning, driving curiosity about Eleanor Bordeu.

There’s a small movement at the front of the room that grabs my attention.

Eleanor’s eyes, flicking toward mine.

This is the third time she’s looked at me. The third time those dark eyes have pinned mine. It’s as if we’ve met before, but we haven’t. I would remember a woman who looked at me the way this woman does now.

Only one other woman has looked at me that way.

The memory of her tiptoes across the back of my mind. She had blue eyes, not brown, but the curiosity was the same.

Eleanor drops her gaze to the floor, and I remember to breathe.

The judge considers each of us in turn. “What you’ve requested today is unusual. So unusual, in fact, that I’ve considered denying the request to change custody simply to avoid setting a dangerous precedent. But you’ve impressed me today, Mr. Thompson. You and your team.” An exhale leaves me as he waves the papers in front of him, held in a loose fist. “I’ll grant your request to transfer custody and care of Ms. Bordeu from the Rockford Center to The Firm, with the full understanding that a life is at stake. Perhaps many lives.”

A shiver moves over my spine. Judge Martel referring to future cases with future patients makes me uneasy. If he opens the door to Eleanor’s custody transfer, then it’s open for more people after her. He and other judges will have to preside over cases like this one, but there will be precedent—us. I know that’s what he’s talking about. But the words